Austrian Linz leaders admit that training sessions broke coronavirus rules

VIENNA: leaders of the Austrian league LASK Linz admitted on Friday that they had had four training sessions that violated COVID-19 regulations.

The case, which left the club facing disciplinary measures, including a possible deduction of points, came to light after the other eleven Austrian Bundesliga teams said they had seen videos which showed Linz holding full training sessions.

According to government rules, players should have stayed in small groups of up to six and kept two meters apart.

Club Vice President Juergen Werner said the club felt safe and wanted tougher training sessions after the entire squad and staff repeatedly tested negative.

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We feel safe and we certainly didn't put anyone in danger, he said at a press conference. It was stupid today. We could have waited a few more days.

We have taken the strictest possible measures, he added. The players arrived alone, washed their own clothes. We pack food for them and put it on them.

The Austrian government allowed teams to start training in small groups for April 20. Full group training was permitted from Friday and the championship will resume on June 2.

On Thursday, Linz said they had been victims of industrial espionage, alleging that two men had entered the club and installed video surveillance equipment. However, Werner declined to go into detail.

We do not want to become victims, he said.

Coach Valerien Ismael apologised. "It is about four training sessions in which we wanted to gain an impulse. That was a mistake but the basic idea was not to gain an advantage. We stand up for our mistake and apologise for it," said the Frenchman.

There will be 10 rounds of matches to play when the league resumes.

Aiming to win the title for the second time and the first since 1965, Linz led the championship group by three points from the Salzburg starters with Vienna fast four others behind.